“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Treating Objects like Women 3: Quantum Arche-Fossils

What a difference a year makes. It was last year when I began to put myself through quantum boot camp. Now I know more about speculative realism and OOO, I can see the beauty of David Bohm's and Basil Hiley's ontological interpretation of quantum theory—an interpretation that Niels Bohr and co. rule out. Why?

Because they are basically correlationists. The only things quantum theory studies are phenomena, not actual objects, they claim. The most extreme form of this is von Neumann, who suggests that there is a “quantum state” (Bohr himself didn't go that far) that is resolved by being measured by a non-quantum device. Thus an infinite regress is possible, since the collapse of the wave function (the quantum state becoming measurable) could occur between setup 1 and measuring device 2, or you could arbitrarily include 1 and 2 together and measure them with a third piece of equipment. And so on.

Furthermore, your mind is a measuring device on this view. So it's your mind that makes things real. Esse est percipi.

To this Bohm and Hiley have a beautiful rejoinder that could come straight out of Meillassoux:
quantum theory is currently applied to cosmology, and it is difficult to believe that the evolution of the universe before the appearance of human beings depended on the human mind (e.g. to make its wave function “collapse” in an appropriate way).
You could avoid this difficulty, say Bohm and Hiley, by imagining some kind of universal mind. Then you are in Berkeley territory again. Sorry Barad, but basing your ontology on Bohr results in correlationism at best and idealism at worst. Objects should exist without having to interact with other objects.

Why is this to do with feminism? A function of patriarchy is to establish identity through a neutral (i.e. nonparticipatory) gaze. This gaze is what “makes things real.” Basing your ontology on Bohr is hardwiring patriarchy into physics.

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